Tyler Wells leaves game with back injury (O's lose 6-4, updated)

Tyler Wells has been on strict pitch and innings counts this season, the Orioles wanting to get him through a full season as a starter without shutting him down. Push him a little in a start, then pull him back. Provide rest where it can be found.

They didn’t want an injury to factor into his usage, but it happened tonight.

Wells threw a slider down and away to Tampa Bay’s Yandy Díaz to begin the at-bat with one out in the fifth inning, twisted his torso slightly, grimaced and bent at the waist. Rougned Odor put an arm around his shoulder as manager Brandon Hyde, pitching coach Chris Holt and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel rushed to the mound.

The club announced that Wells experienced lower back discomfort. The Orioles received 4 2/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen in regulation but lost 6-4 after the Rays scored twice in the 10th.

Jorge Mateo hit a game-tying home run off Colin Poche with one out in the ninth inning. Adley Rutschman walked with two outs and Trey Mancini singled off Poche, who surrendered Ramón Urías’ go-ahead, two-run homer last night in the eighth. Anthony Santander struck out.

The Rays loaded the bases against Jorge López with no outs in the 10th and Randy Arozarena delivered a two-run double to right field. A force at home and double play prevented further damage.

Pete Fairbanks entered from the Rays' combustible bullpen and didn't allow a run.

The Orioles are .500 again at 49-49 but remain in fourth place.

Hyde and Wells said there also was discomfort in the pitcher's side and he will be reevaluated in the morning. The right-hander is expected to go on the 15-day injured list.

"I would say there's a pretty good chance," Hyde said.

"It is unfortunate. I'm hoping for the best and we'll see. I don't want to make any judgements right now, but I'm hoping for the best. It's somebody that we've been trying to be careful with throughout this year. Sometimes you can't control some things."

Wells’ next turn is Monday in Texas, and the Orioles could go in many directions for a replacement, whether they promote No. 4 prospect DL Hall, recall Kyle Bradish or Bruce Zimmermann, or select Matt Harvey’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

Hall started last night and lasted only 2/3 of an inning. Harvey is scheduled for Thursday.

An oblique injury would be much more serious, but the back still is going to shelve Wells and force a roster move. The Orioles could promote a reliever until needing a starter.

Wells’ 20 starts are tied with veteran Jordan Lyles for most on the club. His 94 2/3 innings far exceed the 57 he totaled in 2021.

"Hopefully we'll find out more in the morning on what it is, we don't really know," Wells said.

"My body's been kind of tight as of late, as far as just hips, back, so it's been something that I've been continually working on mobility stuff and just kind of staying on top of it. Nothing really out of the ordinary, I guess. I haven't been a starter, haven't thrown this many innings in three years, so it's definitely my body kind of re-acclimating to the overall workload, but it's all part of it."

Wells wasn't going to argue against his removal. He knew the severity of the situation.

"I was out there and it happened, and I was like, 'Oh, that doesn't feel great,'" he said. "I didn't want to continue to try to test it because I know, you see it so many times with other people. One extra one and it just irritates it, and I wanted to make sure I stayed on top of it and didn't really get to a point where I made it any worse."

Wells has never experienced an oblique injury and doesn't know where it's causing the pain in his side.

"I've never even had much of a lower-back injury or anything like that, either," he said. "Hopefully, we'll find out more tomorrow morning."

Mateo tried to ease the pain of Wells' loss by knotting the score in the ninth.

"Big hit, nice to see him come through there," Hyde said. "Great to see him drive the ball the other way. That was a beautiful piece of hitting. On a night that I felt we really chased out of the zone quite a bit, it was nice to see him with a big homer there in the ninth inning to tie it."

"We're always focusing on continuing to find ways to help the team win and contribute anyway we can," Mateo said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. "Thankfully I hit that pitch hard for the home run, but unfortunately things didn't turn out our way tonight."

Dillon Tate replaced Wells on short notice, inheriting Josh Lowe at second base, and Díaz lined a double into the right field corner. Tate struck out the next two batters.

Wells was charged with four runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings, with no walks, five strikeouts and two home runs among his 69 pitches. His ERA rose from 3.69 to 3.90.

In his last four starts, Wells allowed 15 runs and 23 hits in 19 innings.

The experiment of turning Wells back into a starter after last year’s role as late-inning Rule 5 reliever has been paused. Whether it’s stopped for 2022 remains to be seen.

"It's something you never want to see when you're playing the game, but it's part of the game, it's going to happen," Mateo said. "It was very sad to see. Right now we're just praying to God that everything's OK and it's nothing too bad."

Wells had an unusual first inning that cost him two runs.

Díaz led off with a single and was doubled off first base after Cedric Mullins ran down Brandon Lowe’s fly ball. Arozarena singled and Ji-Man Choi homered into the Orioles’ bullpen for a 2-0 lead.

The Rays lead the majors in committing outs on the bases. That’s why.

Mullins tied his career high with his seventh outfield assist and is tied with Austin Hays for the team lead. No other club in the majors has two players with seven.

Luke Raley led off the second by also launching a fastball, this one clearing the center field fence.

The Orioles were smartly aggressive in the second and third, not so much in the fourth.

Santander and Ryan Mountcastle singled in the second, Santander raced to third base on Hays’ fly ball to right field, and he scored on Odor’s single to reduce the lead to 3-1.

Mountcastle tagged and took third on Urías’ fly ball to right, but Mateo struck out.

Rutschman singled with one out in the third inning and Mancini walked. Rutschman went to third on Santander’s fly ball to right field and scored on a wild pitch.

Down 3-2 in the fourth, the Orioles tried to rally on Odor’s one-out single. Odor tried to take two bases on Urías’ chopper to third and was out 5-3-6.

Drew Rasmussen hit Rutschman, his Oregon State teammate, with two outs in the fifth, Mancini singled into right field to snap an 0-for-26 streak and Rutschman scored on Raley’s throwing error. Santander was drilled on the left knee and Rasmussen exited to boos.

Jason Adam hit Hays on the right wrist with two outs in the eighth, bringing more boos from the stands. Hays stayed in the game, but was clearly agitated and in pain.

The crowd was loudest after the third inning, when first-overall draft pick Jackson Holliday stepped onto the field for a video highlight and introduction.

Holliday signed his $8.19 million contract today as the first-overall selection in the draft. Hyde finally got to meet him, and he stood behind the cage.

Hyde played against Matt Holliday in A ball and coached against him in the majors.

“That was the one guy that you did not want to see come up to the plate with a runner in scoring position,” Hyde said. “You knew it was going to be a 3-iron in right-center field gap.”

The Orioles took more swings at their one-run deficit in the seventh. Mateo led off by reaching on an infield hit and became the next Oriole to tag and advance on Mullins' fly ball to deep center. He was stranded at third base.

Nick Vespi had 1 1/3 scoreless innings behind Tate, who struck out three and wasn't charged with a run in 1 1/3. Félix Bautista retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth, and Keegan Akin stranded a runner in the ninth to give the bullpen 14 1/3 scoreless frames in the series before the 10th.

Leftovers from Jackson Holliday press conference
O's game blog: Tyler Wells to the mound as Tampa B...

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